Tony-Award winner Ben Vereen visits Kent State


Ben Vereen, an actor and singer who has appeared in multiple Broadway shows, performed in the E. Stump Turner Theatre on Wednesday, October 10. October 10 also happened to be Vereen’s birthday, and he was surprised with a birthday cake during his performance. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Rebecca Campbell

Tony Award-Winning actor Ben Vereen performed his one-man show in the E. Turner Stump Theatre Wednesday. He is visiting Kent State University for two days as part of The Thomas Schroth Visting Artist Series.

With his big smile and contagious laugh, Vereen sang and danced many of Broadway’s classics, featuring hits by Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

“It motivated me because he was talking about the arts, you don’t hear about the arts often,” Kyle Kemph, sophomore theatre studies major, said. “But his honesty was my favorite part. I really believed what he was saying.”

For two hours, Vereen sang classics such as “My Way,” “If I Ruled the World” and “Ol’ Black Magic.” The audience was captivated by his eye contact with the front row and his many stories.

“I liked how he interacted with the audience,” Aisling Mural, sophomore business management major, said. “I loved it, and it was a great show.”

The dean of the College of the Arts, John Crawford, said a committee in the College of the Arts chose Vereen to visit Kent State. He said Vereen is the perfect fit because October is Arts and Humanities Month and Disabilities Month.

“They [the committee] picked someone who represents the arts across all spectrums. Doctors said he wouldn’t be able to perform because of his car accident, so he has overcome a lot of obstacles,” Crawford said. “He is really motivating and exceptional and I think everyone can relate to him.”

Between the shows, Vereen talked about Kent State. He said he enjoys visiting Kent because “you stand by the arts and support your students.” Throughout the show, he told stories about the people he met and the way the arts has affected his life.

“Art has saved my life,” Vereen said. “After my car accident, 10 months later I walked on stage to do my next show.”

One of Vereen’s final messages to the audience was to “believe in a power bigger than yourself.”

Vereen will be hosting a lecture in the Kent State University Ballroom called “Up Close and Personal with Ben Vereen” 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It is free and open to all students.

Contact Rebecca Campbell at [email protected].